Tuesday, August 14, 2012

- Religious Liberty Redux

According to this story, This woman is upset because Disney compelled her to wear a different head covering than her traditional Hijab. Both are shown.

Being in favor of religious liberty as I am, you might think I'd find it tricky to come down on the side of Disney in this dispute. But it seems pretty clear that Disney is doing all they can to protect her interest while still focusing on their own. They offered her the choice of "remove (replace) it, work ‘backstage’ out of sight of customers, or go home".

This seems reasonable to me for someplace like Disney even if it wouldn't be for someplace like Burger King. Disney has restaurants on the grounds but it doesn't seem like such a reach to me to claim that at their restaurants all the employees are in effect, in costume. And if the Hijab doesn't jive with the costume, then she shouldn't be allowed to work in that role. They did offer to let her work 'out of sight' of customers, preserving that intellectual position, but she found that too offensive somehow.

This is sort of like the gay marriage debate. Gay marriage isn't about gay people wanting to marry, it's about wanting to use the government to force people to call their lifestyle 'normal'. It's the same thing here. She can work a job with the same pay, in the same place if she's so interested in the principle, but that's not what she wants. What she wants is to have her Hijab accepted at Disney as 'normal' even when it obviously is not.

I hope Disney recognizes that they can't give in on this. I hope they fight it to the end. I'll support them in it if they do, and be less likely to be a customer of theirs if they do not.


Gerard M said...

Disney has restaurants on the grounds but it doesn't seem like such a reach to me to claim that at their restaurants all the employees are in effect, in costume.

Hoo boy, you got that right. I used to live in Anaheim, California. The Disneyland corporate culture is obsessed with the idea that it is not merely a theme park, but a theatrical show. They have their own glossary: see http://www.squidoo.com/disneyterminology . Sure enough, Disneyland employees do not wear uniforms -- Disneyland "cast members" wear "costumes." "Cast members" includes everyone in public (excuse me, "on stage") including the people who sweep up litter. It may seem cheesy, but I guarantee that they are totally serious about this stuff.

Disney parks are also known for their fanatical attention to detail in their presentation to the public. Faced with a lawsuit, Six Flags or Knotts Berry Farm might just give in and let their workers just wear turbans or dreadlocks in the wild west show or whatever. But allowing a Disneyland cast member to wear costume that is clearly wrong would be regarded as a monstrous abomination unto Holy Walt.

Tom said...

Yeah like I said, as someone who's only been their customer and doesn't really know any employees or their corporate culture, it makes sense to me.

Actually, that's not entirely so.

The only employee of theirs that I've ever known was a girl I used to date many MANY years ago who ended up playing Belle in one of their theatrical presentations. But she played a role complete with a name, and a full length animated movie under her belt. since Disney hasn't produced a movie about the guy who empties the garbage cans I can see where there might be an issue.

But like I said, it makes sense to me. Image is everything for Disney - that's obvious at a distance. And they didn't fire the woman, just asked her to stay out of sight or fit wear the costume. Not such a great stretch I think.

Gerard M said...

Disney theme parks recruit heavily for the summer among college-age kids who were in drama or glee club in high school. The implicit agreement is: Disney pays peanuts, and demands that you work hard and smile all the time (unless you're in the Haunted Mansion). However, your working environment will be perfect -- indeed the Happiest Place on Earth, and you will be treated as if you are in show biz.

Naturally, a lot of Disney employees are young gay guys who love musicals and theater and Snow White. Guys like this wouldn't be caught dead working at Burger King, but would pay money (and effectively do) to work ("perform") at Disneyland. A few of them get promoted, and stay permanently. For this reason, Disney parks (not necessarily central Disney corporate) are institutionally both child-fantasy friendly and gay friendly.

The type of gay guy who works at Disneyland would never dream of being offensive (or even overtly sexual in any way) at all at work. Disney is not at all about "we're here! We're queer! Get used to it!" confrontation. But, by the same token, neither is it about tolerating such a thing as the wrong fucking fabric. Still less is it about spoiling the DREAM by tolerating a hijab in the storyteller room.

This issue may be another example of the inevitable rift within political correctness between gays and muslims.

Anonymous said...

I'd just prefer that we stop giving into Muslim sensitivities, excuse the pun, at the drop of a hat, every time some immigrant from Fukupistan gets over here and implies that our culture is intolerant, racist, etc. Perhaps if more Americans traveled to Islamic countries they would be a little more understanding of just how good Muslims and Islamic immigrants have it here and be willing to standup against malcontents like this one and say unequivocally and proudly, "If you don't like it here, GET THE HELL OUT." There are plenty of other countries where you can wear whatever shmata, keffiya, berka, chador or what-have you want but my guess is... they really don't want to live in those places.